Still the 24-hour news speculatron remains fired up, as more information emerges about what happened – and what is still unknown – regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing more than a week ago. And what we still don’t have is the Boeing 777, or indeed any trace of it. It cannot have just vanished. But, equally, so far it also cannot be found.
This produces a news vacuum. And news, like nature, abhors a vacuum. So into the space where news would normally be is poured speculation, and today’s Mail On Sunday has gone overboard in that department. Here, the pilot, because he took an interest in his country’s politics and supported a party leader who had an interest in democracy, is painted as some kind of obsessive.
“Doomed airliner pilot was political fanatic: Hours before taking control of flight MH370 he attended trial of jailed opposition leader as FBI reveal passengers could be at a secret location” screams the headline. Yeah, right. The idea that the jailing of an opposition politician would cause a pilot to take his plane – on impulse – off route is distinctly fanciful. This appears to have been planned in advance.
Let’s stick to the facts. We now know that the part of the ACARS system accessible to the flight deck, and the aircraft’s transponder, were independently disabled, and that both had been disabled when the last conversation with Air Traffic Control occurred. So one or other of the pilots, either willingly or otherwise, had disabled them. That means an inside job, or hijack.
The 777 climbed beyond its maximum service altitude, to 45,000 feet, briefly before turning west and descending back to 23,000 feet before climbing again to its initial cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. This deviation could have been caused by a struggle, but bear in mind that the communications devices had already been disabled. Perhaps the co-pilot had belatedly discovered that something was amiss.
And that’s the limit of my speculation: back at the fact face, we know that communication that could not be interrupted by the flight deck was maintained. Hence the radar “pings” which have suggested the aircraft remained in the air, or safely on the ground, for over seven hours after civilian radar contact was lost. That means an awful lot of terrain to scour.
Malaysian authorities have confirmed that they have seized the pilot’s home-built flight simulator, and have also raided the co-pilot’s home. So let’s see what they come up with. Meanwhile, the MoS has appended some truly crackpot conspiracy theories to their article. This gets us nowhere, and that situation will not change until that 777 is found. So let’s leave the authorities to get on with the job.
In the meantime, let’s hope that the mystery is quickly solved.